Toner Pirates: How to Make Them ‘Walk the Plank’

Toner pirates: the scourge of the copier and printer industryOn a weekly and sometimes daily basis, my staff receives calls about what we in the copier and printer industry call “toner pirates.”

What are toner pirates? They are business scam artists who call legitimate businesses like yours and attempt to trick you into buying copier and printer toner supplies from them. Sometimes they will try to mislead you into thinking you’re dealing with your local copier company, or they will call several times, attempting to gather bits of information each time.

Typically, toner pirates will target people who normally don’t order supplies or who aren’t familiar with the office equipment. The scammers will offer discount toner, cheap copier paper and other copier and printer supplies at a great price. Of course, you probably will never receive the supplies, and, if you do, they are exorbitantly priced and of inferior quality.

Here are some steps to take that can help you avoid toner pirates:

  • Train your staff, especially those who are new or may answer outside calls. Make them aware of this scam.
  • Be wary of callers who claim to be from your copier supplier but use high-pressure sales tactics or offer “last chance” deals.
  • Designate one person to handle office supply purchases. Then, train employees to respond, “I am not authorized to order anything. You’ll have to speak to the person in charge of ordering supplies and get a purchase order.”
  • Ask for the caller’s contact information. Then call your regular supplier to verify the story.
  • Be on the lookout for bogus invoices, which some scammers will send, even if no one in your office placed an order.
  • In writing, dispute bills from suppliers that have misrepresented themselves or their goods. Don’t allow yourself to be pressured into paying.
  • Report suspected toner pirates to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by calling 1.877.FTCHELP (1-877-382-4357), or by filling out an online complaint form at www.ftc.gov.

One final word of advice: don’t use poor quality toner or supplies in your copier or printer. It may damage your equipment and/or negate managed print or maintenance service agreements.